Open Mic: A Chance for You to Contribute to a Post!

This is a new post series I will do from time to time called: Open Mic.  Here is the point — I want to hear from you!  What theological, church, cultural, or social justice issues are you thinking about these days?  You can comment on this post by writing a 200-700 word blog-style-essay that will make your voice heard.  What will happen from there is in the next couple weeks I will be taking your ideas and making you a one time contributor to the Groans From Within community.  I will not ‘announce’ the winner, but will simply take your text (if you ‘win’) and create a blog post out of it (so you’d better be watching for updates :-) ).  Make sure you leave any of your info at the bottom of your comment submission (Twitter, Blog URL, Facebook, etc.).  I look forward to hearing what you have to say as you pic up the mic and speak!!!

One tip: it usually helps to have some kind of provocative question to close out a post so that it stimulates conversation…

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  • Josh Wise

    Ok I’ll be the first to jump in. I was listening to a Q & A on Greg Boyd’s chruch website and he described our beliefs as concentric circles. In the center are the dogma’s, the central truths of christianity. The next level is doctrine whic Boyd describes as usually its a way of explaining the dogma. This is what churches/denominations usually form around. The outer layer is opinion. These are ideas that you have about the faith that really just opinions.

    My question is where do we draw these lines? I know some individuals who want to take an opinion or a doctrine and elevate it to a dogma. You could also go the other way and reduce the core of christianity to something that no longer resembles the christian faith. So my question is where do we as a body of believers draw these lines and what do we do when someone is tries to distort them?
    Peace

  • http://zechariahfourteenfive.wordpress.com zechariahfourteenfive

    Prima facie, the events of Zechariah 14:3-5 constitute what could be considered one of the epic messianic prophecies. Western Christianity, for the most part, believes this prophecy describes the Messiah’s advent, in which he sets his foot upon the Mount of Olives, splitting it asunder to form a great valley as a means of escape for Jews fleeing Jerusalem from enemy armies in the Kidron Valley. Adherents to this interpretation are convinced it is the truth because the bible tells them so. Well, at least they think it does.

    An indepth examination, however, reveals that in most Western bibles Zechariah 14:5 is grossly mistranslated. It logically follows, then, that any interpretation based upon this flawed translation is fraudulent as well. This analysis – zechariahfourteenfive.wordpress.com – will demonstrate that the aforementioned translation/interpretation has no basis in reality whatsoever, and is merely the invention of men’s imaginations. It is the unfortunate outgrowth of the successive effects of manuscript corruption, translator error, and spurious exegesis, which have corrupted Zechariah’s prophecy to the point of being false prophecy.

    This should cause those who believe in biblical infallibility to take a step back and evaluate what that really means.

    • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

      Thanks so much for that explanation of Zechariah 14:4 and 5. I spent quite a while on that blog page, and all the geographical and geological was just too much for my poor mind. But I was easily able to understand the general idea and it makes very good sense. Having the footnote in my NIV translation to refer to was also helpful for verse 5: “My mountain valley will be blocked and will extend to Azel. It will be blocked as it was blocked because of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.” The reference from Josephus concerning what happened with the earthquake in Uzziah’s reign really clinched the matter as far as I am concerned. Whether Zechariah’s prophecy concerns a literal landslide, or (as I believe) is figurative as is general in the prophets (in the sense of “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low”), the translation makes perfect sense.

  • debradeanmurphy

    GRIEF, REPENTANCE, AND THE BP OIL SPILL

    The current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is being packaged and sold as a story of blame and gross incompetence, and there’s plenty of both to go around. But it’s perhaps more instructive to see what the oil spill spin–and the ecological catastrophe itself–reveal about America’s shifting self-understanding. This latest, lamentable, preventable tragedy, thankfully, is beginning to encourage the kind of deep self-scrutiny that has always been disallowed in this land of eternal optimism and no limits.

    In some ways, the modern project that is America has always been a bit like the gifted child who is told she can do anything, be anything–that she is different, special, unique among her peers. Even when it becomes clear that our darling will never be a ballerina or a veterinarian, we continue to feed her ego and her false hopes.

    In the community of nations, America has historically been the precocious youngster no one could refuse–or speak the truth to. The fact that the U.S. also had wealth (i.e., power) contributed to her popularity and irresistability. (Who doesn’t want to be friends with the pretty girl with lots of money?)

    But maybe we’re growing up. Maybe we’re about to get real. Maybe we’re realizing just how ridiculous we’ve looked for so long, carrying on as if we’re still the adored, special child when everyone else has known for a long time that we are ordinary–valuable and vital, yes, but ordinary.

    And with ordinariness comes the sobering realization that we have delayed far too long any sort of reckoning with the destruction that our prolonged adolescence has wrought. It turns out we may not have the ingenuity, the wherewithal, the American inventiveness to fix the monstrous spill on the ocean floor. We may need to defer to others who are smarter, more creative, more practiced in the art and science of addressing failure because they never assumed themselves immune to it.

    Growing up means we will have to acknowledge that the highly-prized ”American Way of Life” was always unustainable and unjust–epic folly. And this myth rested on another one: that a limitless economy was not only desirable but our birthright.

    With characteristic bluntness, Wendell Berry puts it this way:

    In keeping with our unrestrained consumptiveness, the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt. The idea of a limitless economy implies and requires a doctrine of general human limitlessness: all are entitled to pursue without limit whatever they conceive as desirable—a license that classifies the most exalted Christian capitalist with the lowliest pornographer.

    This truth is painful to hear but necessary if we are going to see our way out of the messes we have made and the lies we have lived–if we are going to do the work of repentance, which literally means to turn around and go in a different direction.

    TV’s talking heads are pointing fingers in the aftermath of the oil rig explosion; it’s a truism of broadcast journalism that such a strategy will increase viewership. Maybe so. But in the midst of the spin we see real-world implications–dire consequences–for the whole created order. We’ve been given the gift of looking with clear-eyed honesty at our flawed past and our uncertain future. In accepting this gift, we must refuse to take refuge any longer in that other destructive myth that offers easy answers: America’s so-called exceptionalism.

    We will grieve as we leave our childhood behind–not because we wish to return to it but because of our growing awareness of the responsibility we forsook while inhabiting it. Such grief can heal since it is not a sign of weakness but of growth and maturity. It is an act of profound humility. And such humility can be, for a grown-up America, the beginning of wisdom.

  • http://www.dodifferent.org.uk/david David Bunce

    In his famous anti-war novel, ‘Slaughterhouse 5’, Kurt Vonnegut in talking about the fire-bombing of Dresden makes the observation that “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre”. It’s an understandable sentiment, and one that deeply resonates with me. It’s as if, in putting words and descriptions to events like the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, the killing fields in Cambodia or the Gulag, we are somehow taking away from the raw power of the evil that was done. It almost seems to do an injustice to the victims of this evil when we try to rationalise it, carrying the connotations that what happened was merely an unfortunate set of circumstances, a curious by-product of history that had deeply tragic consequences. Therefore, silence is often the preferred option.

    Yet at the same time, there is also the danger that, in remaining respectfully silent, we are unable to guard against a repeat of such an event in other circumstances (and a cursory knowledge of history will instantly tell us that such acts of inhumanity are repeated time and time again) and, most worryingly of all, we are unable to identify the same dehumanising and destructive trends and tendencies in our own lives. Even when writing this, I’m reminded by an RSS feed from a blog I read that officially in Turkey the Armenian Holocaust in the early half of the twentieth century is not officially acknowledged; in this area, as in so many others, the path to truth and reconciliation, already so painful, is made more impossible yet by denial and cover-up. Likewise, we would be foolish to think that such appalling acts of violence are not being perpetrated even now – whether it be in Darfur, or in the treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza strip.

    In Rwanda, in Germany, in the Balkans, one of the main trends behind the massacre of millions of people was the loss of a sense of humanity. The story of massacre is the story of the triumph of nationalistic, ethnic or tribal identity over a deeper sense of shared humanity and a shared ethic of human dignity and human worth.

    As a Christian, this recognition poses deep problems and fundamental questions for my faith – questions which became even more poignant last summer when I visited Dachau Concentration Camp and for the first time really became aware of the true extent of the Holocaust.

    Theology after the Holocaust is something which is, quite rightly, very tricky. What is there to say to such an appalling act of inhumanity and evil, especially coming as I do from an evangelical perspective, when so often we only focus on the personal sin and atonement, the substitution of Jesus on the cross for our own personal sins? What is there to say to whole nations, whole peoples torn apart by hate, by division, by inhumanity? What hope does the cross of Christ hold out to such a massacre?

    Indeed, it’s possible to say that it’s this focus on the personal, the private, a legacy from Martin Luther’s theology of two Kingdoms, that led many Christians in Germany and elsewhere to separate their beliefs from the wider political scene, to internalise faith and confine religious conscience to the private sphere.

    Perhaps one of the few theologians who has begun to satisfactorily sketch the faintest shadows of an answer is the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann. In his book “The Crucified God,” he reflects upon what the gospel of Mark reports as being Jesus’ dying words, the cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this cry, Moltmann argues, we can begin to get a picture of the scope of the cross – the suffering God, not removed from the pain of the world, but suffering alongside it – and suffers alongside us and all those who are oppressed, persecuted and denied their humanity – entering into the world in compassion and thereby protesting against it in an act of self giving. It is a challenge to me as a Christian to not think of God solely as God of sin management, allowing me to sit in an ivory tower and be removed from a hurting and broken world, but a God who goes into the deepest, darkest places of humanity and calls me to follow, to be the hands and feet of the crucified God, whether it be in advocacy for the victims of dehumanisation in all its forms, whether it be working in local communities for increased understanding and peace and a decrease in hate and fear – whatever area of life, I believe the call to follow Jesus is a call to follow the crucified God and to come and die in order to bring life.

    I’d like to finish with a quote I saw when visiting Dachau Concentration Camp. “Signs of conquest are presented only unobtrusively. No euphemism, no playing down. Only here and there an indication that there are such things as liberation, reconciliation, redemption. Perhaps you may cast a glance at the cross protruding from the wall. You recognise a figure being crushed by the surrounding load. But you may detect a different motion as well: A figure bursting open this load. Resistance and resignation, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.”

  • http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/ Robert Martin

    I’ll bite:

    Something my wife mentioned recently made me wonder some stuff. Here are some questions that I think the Christian church in the USA needs to seriously ask themselves. Likewise, these are fair questions for any Christian in any society today. Please note, these are not political questions, these are ecclesiology and missiology questions. They apply no matter what the politics, governmental structure, economic philosophy, or what not that you are currently living under.

    1. If your government were to fail utterly today and a tyranny that is unfriendly to the mission of the church arise in its place, what would you, as a Christian, do differently?
    2. If there is something you would do differently, why aren’t you doing it now?
    3. What is preventing you from making those changes in your life?

    I personally need to think very hard and very carefully about these. The answers may be a lot harder to deal with that appear on the surface.

    What about you?

    • Josh Wise

      I’m curious what you’re driving at. If for some reason the gov’t were to all of a sudden become hostile to christianity I don’t see how it would necesarily affect me. It wouldn’t affect my relationship with God. I don’t really need permission to love Jesus or those around me. I guess I don’t understand the question.

      • http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/ Robert Martin

        Consider, Josh, what you are doing right now to live out your Christian walk in the world around you, who you are ministering to, how you are doing this, IF you are doing it, etc.

        The challenge is to complacency in the church. We have a very “friendly” culture in the US right now where the culture and government both claim the same values of social and economic justice as the church does. If that changes…what will you do differently? If anything? You may be one not trapped in that complacency in which case that’s excellent.

        The point of this post is to spawn conversation… not to indicate that I have any particular answers, but to start talking about the implications from a variety of directions.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Lets save the answer to that question till we do some reposts! :-)

      • http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/ Robert Martin

        Feel free then, Kurt, to remove my reply… I’ll save the detail for a repost if I get the honor…

        In the meantime, Josh, you can actually participate in the discussion on that post at two other blogs I write for:

        http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/
        http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/

        The same post is in both locations under the title “Some ponderings”

        Look forward to interacting with you!

  • http://jamesbcarroll.wordpress.com James B. Carroll

    Recently, my autistic daughter was looking over my shoulder as I was perusing my Twitter home page. She left the room with a nervous giggle and returned to the doorway several minutes later. With a smile that I recognized as her way of conveying that she wanted to say something, but couldn’t come up with the right words, she stood there silently. Unlike other teenagers who are never at a loss for words, she lives with an additional handicapping condition that challenges her ability to express herself verbally. Finally, I asked her what was on her mind. She started to speak, nervously giggled, and shuffled as she was obviously trying to phrase words in her mind before speaking. After several encouraging prompts and additional assurances that I genuinely was interested in what she was trying to say, she finally blurted out, “Are you having an affair?”

    Realizing her limited understanding of words adults fully comprehend, including their implications, I calmly told her that I wasn’t. I followed up my response with an invitation for her to sit beside me and talk about what she had asked. When I asked why she posed that question, she pointed to my computer and the same Twitter page and said, “You have pictures of pretty ladies.” I took the time to show her that the pictures and names on that page included men and women with whom I keep in contact, many of whom I have not had the privilege of ever meeting face-to-face. With the same impulsivity as before, satisfied with the explanation I had offered, she said “okay” and left my side to return to her school work.

    That brief exchange reminded me that others are oftentimes judging us by nothing more than that first impression, a snapshot of a moment in time. Unfortunately, while the mind of the observer has been working overtime in filling in the details of that freeze-frame of our reality, life-long impressions are formed in ignorance of who we are and what we believe. Transposing this concept to our relationship with our children, the impressions we leave with them are more likened to a perpetual video stream. It is in moments such as I shared with my daughter that we have the opportunity to “edit” misconceptions in that feed. However, we do not have that luxury in the first impressions we leave with those outside our family.

    Every person we meet instinctively formulates a lasting judgment based upon nothing more than that moment-in-time snapshot, irregardless of accuracy. When it is known that we profess to be a disciple of Christ, the minds-eye of the observer shifts to something akin to time-lapse photography, gathering glimpses of our reality and our faith with which to judge us and our witness. Over a period of three years, alongside His teachings, Jesus offered His disciples an example of Kingdom life. During the course of eighteen years, we have the opportunity to mold the lives of children He has entrusted to our care by our example. Throughout our daily lives, in the blink of an eye, we have the opportunity to offer a glimpse of the kingdom to everyone we encounter by the example we convey.

    What would we see if we could view our life and example through our children’s eyes? What would we perceive if we could see that momentary glimpse of our life and our faith offered to total strangers? Would the one we profess is Lord of our lives accept the example we impart?

  • jason

    here is something that i wrote last year when some troubling polling information came out…i wrote it as a letter to the editor, but nobody every published it…i thought that it might be a little out of date for this forum until i saw this headline this morning:

    http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/06/id_do_it_again_former_presiden.html

    Waterboarding…Jesus-style

    Would Jesus support the use of waterboarding or other similar torture techniques? One might infer from some recent polling information that he would. In April 2009, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a poll that showed that 62 percent of white, evangelical Protestants felt torture could be often, or sometimes, justified to obtain important information. Overall, those who attend a church service at least once a week supported the use of torture techniques by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent. Cnn.com summed up the findings by saying, “The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists.”

    So where did this word “evangelical” come from, and why do American, evangelical Christians, of which I am one, tend to be more open to the use of torture than other groups? An investigation of the history of the word does not offer any plausible explanations. In fact, the origin of the word “evangelical” is the Greek word “euangelion,” which means “good news.” This good news, or “Gospel,” refers to the biblical narrative of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, which is found in the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    The Bible teaches that Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, the Messiah, in order to reveal to us the true nature of God and save us from our sins. The Gospel accounts demonstrate to us that Christ’s teachings and miracles were all about God’s immeasurable love for humanity, which was most clearly demonstrated on the cross; Christ willingly died for all so that all might have the opportunity to be reconciled to God (this certainly was “good news” for the whole world!).

    Without any doubt, this “good news” turns conventional wisdom on its head. (This is a good thing, as conventional wisdom has had a reputation of leading to violence.) Jesus said that it is the peacemakers who are blessed. He warned that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. He taught us to love our enemies, do good to them and to pray for our persecutors. To 21st century ears, this “good news” sounds impractical, even radical. However, what many fail to realize is that this message was just as radical in Jesus’ day as it is today.

    Like the Jewish society into which Christ was born more than 2000 years ago, and like the Roman society that conquered and oppressed the Jews, our culture believes that acquiring military might is the only way to ensure peace. As a result of this worldview, the Israelites believed that the Messiah would be a warrior-king who would free them from Rome and establish Israel as the world’s superpower. They certainly did not expect their Messiah to be a suffering servant who would die a criminal’s death on a cross. Their worldview and their faith in conventional wisdom prevented them from hearing the good news and placing their faith in Jesus.

    However, one would think that an “evangelical” Christian would have no problem believing this “good news” (remember euangelion?). After all, the word “Christian” means “Christ-like.” So, what would cause evangelical Christians, literally “good news Christians”, to support a method of torture like waterboarding?

    If you are unfamiliar with the process of waterboarding, a person is laid on their back in a decline position (with their head lower than their feet), a towel or cloth is placed over their face and then water is poured over the towel. This technique simulates drowning and was used on several “high value” detainees during CIA interrogations of suspected or known terrorists. The logic to use this tactic must have been something like: we know that these people have valuable information that puts innocent people at risk – we need a quick and effective way of getting this information out of them. Surely Jesus would approve of techniques like this that would save innocent lives, wouldn’t He? Is there anything in the “good news” that might give us a clue?

    Well, there is this one story in John Chapter 13. Jesus, as he always seemed to be, was at a party. However, the atmosphere at this party was rather somber. Jesus, an innocent man, knew that He would soon face torture and death at the hands of the Roman terrorists. He also knew that in a matter of hours He would be betrayed by all of His closest companions – His chosen twelve disciples. One of them would hand him over to the Romans, Chief Priests, and Pharisees, another would deny he ever knew Jesus and the rest would flee into the night.

    Here, we see that Jesus had reliable intelligence that a terrorist plot was about to unfold. He had lured the co-conspirators to an undisclosed upper room. He took a basin of water…and he took a towel. Then…Jesus wrapped the towel around His own waist, humbled Himself and washed His disciples’ dirty, smelly feet, which was a remarkable act of selfless love and respect. Jesus washed the feet of the ones he knew were about to betray and abandon Him! Furthermore, He told the disciples that they were to be feet-washers too. Followers of Jesus must be feet-washers of all people – even their enemies…especially their enemies! This is waterboarding Jesus-style. This is scandalous “good news!”

    So where is the disconnect between American evangelicals and Jesus? Is the fault to be found in the seemingly impractical teachings of Jesus? Or, maybe the fault lies with conventional wisdom and its influence upon the teachings of the American Church? As for me, my faith is found in Jesus Christ…and, sadly, ever-diminishing in this church.

  • Amy Stone

    RAISE A GLASS TO JESUS

    My brother recently told me, “Some of my friends say that they are ‘reclaiming beer for Jesus.’” Unimpressed, he wondered aloud, “Really, this is their Christian mission?”

    That wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this sentiment. Many of my friends have expressed similar thoughts in recent years. Formerly taboo (to admit anyway), alcohol consumption has now become fashionable among my friends. While evangelicals aren’t typically imbibing during the Lord’s Supper, they definitely are around their own supper tables. In fact, in my circles, wine, beer, and mixed drinks have become staples at parties and when dining with friends.

    Christians are finding freedom, no longer automatons–programmed by the foregone conclusions of previous generations. This change is probably due to the same kinds of cultural trends that the so-called emergent church is “emerging” out of. Fundamentalists have noticed a connection and have written scathing critiques of the emerging/emergent church based on their own perceptions of how much alcohol is associated with the movement.

    Whether or not the loudest critics are correct in their assumptions, I have noticed a troubling bent among those of my friends who most loudly tout this new-found freedom from legalism: They tend to get drunk, a lot. Of course, as good Christians, there is often the cursory talk about moderation. Nonetheless, as often as I witness moderate drinking, I notice immoderate, and it troubles me.

    It’s not surprising that the freedom to openly drink has “outed” some previously-drinking alcoholics. Maybe it’s good that those who used to hide in shame are now exposed to the light. However, there seems to be little accountability for this. Furthermore, I’ve seen some who, upon discovering that they could drink, started out slowly, but now seem to draw no limits for themselves.

    What bothers me most is that, in more than a few circles, getting drunk has become an expectable part of “Christian fellowship.” In fact, whether or not someone drinks has become a badge of honor–proof that they truly are free in Christ.

    Where has “vice” found acceptance within your fellowships? Does it serve to build up or tear down?

    What is true freedom in Christ?

    Kurt, I don’t have any special links or anything. It’s just me.

    • Amy Stone

      I would like to clarify that the article above is not representative of the congregation that I worship with now. It is more indicative of friends I have that currently eschew traditional church fare, in favor of alternative gatherings.

  • Charles Toy

    Who are The Christian Left? We are The Christian Left!

    We’re not about Dogma. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.

    Wikipedia says it pretty well in the following 5 paragraphs:

    The Christian left is a term originating in the United States, used to describe a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice.

    The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as ‘left wing’ is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups). Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values (and what Jesus Himself said), adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed.

    The Christian Left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian Left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of “turning the other cheek”, which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye”, the Christian Left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism.

    While non-religious socialists sometimes find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as “the first socialist”), The Christian Left does not find that socialism alone is an adequate end or means. Christian faith is the core of their belief which in turn demands social justice.

    The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues including homosexuality. This is often not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus — viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to active homosexuality. In this case, similar to philosophies expressed by writers such as C.S. Lewis, these members of the Christian Left believe homosexual sex to be immoral but largely overemphasized when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex. [In other words, a sin is a sin, is a sin. We're all sinners. The constant right-wing focus on Homosexuality and Abortion is a focus on nothing but wedge issues.]

    The Christian Left definitely doesn’t get as “uptight” about the same things as their right-wing Brothers and Sisters. Lefties tend to accept that we’re all trapped in the human condition, that we all struggle, and that we’re all sinners. They think we should focus on behaviors that Jesus focused on while he was here in body. Things like hypocrisy, organized oppression, exorbitant greed, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, selfishness, abuse of power, violence, etc.

    Paul defined the Human Condition well: (Romans 7: 14-25) “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    Many Christians live under a deeply ingrained code of written and unwritten expectations and rules that shame them and drain them of spiritual strength. The Christian Left focuses on a message to help people unmask the lies that keep them on a works-righteousness treadmill, and to help them discover the liberation of the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ and the rest that comes through what Christ has done on the cross. Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned. Does this mean we can just do whatever we want? Of course not. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we should always do our best to live up to what he asks from us (to follow his commandments).

    Another Christian Lefty, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Professor of English at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, put it this way in her article “A Voice from the Christian Left.”

    “Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question WWJD?– What would Jesus do? I’d like to remind them what Jesus DID do: he cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ — the lowlifes and outcasts of his day, while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who from a place of privilege imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading. He told his disciples not to oppose the healing work of those outside the ranks of his followers. And again and again he reminded us to care for the poor. (That moral issue gets more air time than any other in the gospels: 1 verse in 9.) If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think we’d find some pretty clear indications there about what Jesus would do. And what he wouldn’t. (One of the few bumper stickers I’ve been tempted to affix to my still undecorated car in recent months reads ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’)

    Whatever Jesus would do, given what he did do, and has promised he will do, I don’t think it looks much like what the insulated, self-congratulatory Fox News fans on the ‘Christian Right’ are doing.”

    Based on the Word, The Christian Left believes it’s obvious that the primary message of Jesus was Love. Love for God, and Love for our fellow men and women.

    (Matthew 22:37-40) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    (John 13:34-35) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    (Matthew 7:12) “Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

    (Luke 6:35) “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

    (Mark 10:43-45) “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    (John 13:14-15) “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

    The Christian Left doesn’t tend to march in lockstep. All of the above statements may not speak for all members of The Christian Left. The Christian Left is a spectrum, just as The Christian Right is one.

  • http://sofolo.posterous.com Christopher Sofolo

    The fourth of July is around the corner, so I thought this was appropriate:

    “INDEPENDENCE” DAY?

    Isn’t it interesting that we celebrate our “freedom” on this day? A freedom that is dripping with the blood of our indigenous people. In order to escape “taxation without representation” we have committed genocide on a scale that is believed to exceed that of the Jewish holocaust. Has it really been worth it? I mean, look at our current system of taxation. Look at our continued use of “redemptive violence” . . . how appalling. We have raped, pillaged and killed, all to fulfill our lust for independence. All the while our souls are crying out for interdependence. Dependence on one another. Dependence on God our King.
    I cannot help but be reminded of a scene from The Matrix. The scene in which a certain someone (Cypher/Mr. Reagan) is meeting with the enemy (Agent Smith) in a restaurant and “enjoying” a steak. Cypher’s request? to plug back in to the lie.
    ———
    Agent Smith: Do we have a deal, Mr. Reagan.
    Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.
    Agent Smith: Then we have a deal?
    Cypher: I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. You understand? And I want to be rich. You know, someone important, like an actor.
    Agent Smith: Whatever you want, Mr. Reagan.
    ———
    Sound familiar? We as a society choose every single day to surrender our mind to a system, to a lie. We want to enjoy our freedom (steak) while the dirty work (slaughter) is done behind a beautifully adorned curtain (one of red, white and blue).
    What do we do about these atrocities? Usually, nothing. What we DO do is sit on a comfy blanket and watch colorful explosions in the sky. While our brothers and sisters around the globe sleep on the floor covered with a tattered old rag of a blanket (if they are lucky enough) and pray that explosions do not fall from the sky today. Why does God allow these things? Maybe if we asked him he would say: “why do YOU allow these things? YOU are my hands and my feet!”
    There is another way. We live in America, this is true. But it does not mean that we must partake in or surrender to the empire. Wherever Jesus went he usually upset the empire in some way or another (I mean, they did kill him after all). GOD is our president. GOD is our king. Isn’t it lovely to know that God our King is also God our Father!
    ———
    I leave you with a portion of a prayer (litany) :
    One: From the arrogance of power
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the myth of redemptive violence
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the tyranny of greed
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the ugliness of racism
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the cancer of hatred
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the seduction of wealth
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the addiction of control
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the idolatry of nationalism
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the paralysis of cynicism
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the violence of apathy
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the ghettos of poverty
    All: Deliver us
    One: From the ghettos of wealth
    All: Deliver us
    One: From a lack of imagination
    All: Deliver us
    One: Deliver us, O God
    All: Guide our feet into the way of peace
    One: We will not conform to the patterns of this world
    All: Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds
    One: With the help of God’s grace
    All: Let us resist evil wherever we find it
    ———

    This was taken from an older entry on my personal blog: http://sofolo.posterous.com/independence-day-67

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  • http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ Liz

    Recently there was a lively discussion going on over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, about Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind Of Christianity, and the soul-sort narrative.

    Comment #107 by Lindsey, asked the question: “Whose soul will be condemned to torment?”

    Here’s part of what Lindsey had to say:

    I attended a funeral of a man that I worked with. He was in his mid-forties and died of a rare form of cancer. He and his family were devoutly Jewish. The service was moving, spiritual, and had the raw feeling of the God of Abraham in Holy Spirit in the room. This man, Brooke, was an ophthalmologist, and had left his successful and lucrative practice to teach high school science to inner city kids. I taught with him. The kids were heartbreaking, helpless, and hopeless, and he built them up in every way. As he went through painful treatment, he refused to quit teaching, and taught up until a week before he died. The synagogue at his funeral was filled with his students: poor kids, minority kids, kids that had never set foot in a house of worship before. Through Brooke, these kids, and all who worked with him, saw God. Brooke, though he didn’t know it, was a true servant of Christ. Meanwhile, my very Christian neighbors across the street sport a confederate flag bumper sticker right next to their cross. Through this simple gesture, they have turned away many people in my neighborhood from even being willing to hear the name of Jesus. These people, have condemned countless people to eternity without Christ through their ignorance and selfishness.

    So tell me, who’s soul will be condemned to torment?

    In many ways this question is not relavant for me these days as I no longer embrace theology that revolves around “who is going to heaven? who is going to hell?” but I believe the story that Lindsey surrounds the question with is important as it demonstrates the problem with the theology that I grew up with.

    What do you think?

  • brambonius

    Can I nominate something from my own blog from february?

    http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/avatar-and-the-core-of-the-christian-view-on-marriage/

    I’m still thinking about ‘anarchist marriage’, and I meant to write more after a discussion on the pastoralia blog, but I didn’t have the time yet…

    shalom

    Bram

  • angelarines

    From my blog: http://angierines.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/feminization-of-the-church/#comments

    I recently heard a sermon that went into detail about the feminization of the church. Apparently, men are not as likely as women to attend church because worship songs are too “touchy-feely” and the front of the church is too feminine with its flower decor in the sanctuary. They are not as likely to attend small groups, or Bible studies, or become members of a local congregation. This of course, was not a new concept to me. There are tons of books, articles, and other blog posts about this topic.

    However, after re-hearing about this issue of the feminization of the church and the lack of males who attend church, it made me reconsider this once again. I am not necessarily calling into question that the church has become more “feminine”. Heck, even I take issue with some of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” worship songs that are out today (won’t name any specifically). But I wonder how this has happened. Churches, Evangelical ones in particular, are by and large run by men. Men are the pastors. Men are the elders. Men are the worship leaders. Not only are men the majority of leaders in the church today. But they also make up the majority of those who write worship songs and write the many books that are out today. So how did we arrive in this place where the church has been feminized? Or has the church even been feminized?

    Perhaps this is the wrong word. There is something about using the word “feminine” to describe the negative aspects of church. The word feminine is not a way to describe something as being lacking or incomplete. I know that this is not the intention of those who use the language “feminization of the church,” but so many times when I have heard this terminology it has caused to me pause. If we believe that women are equal in value and worth, let’s throw out the negative connotations when using the word feminization.

    Instead of using the word feminine to describe what we see going on in the church, let’s define this in different terms. The church hasn’t become more feminine. The Church has lost sight of its original mission and the wildness of being an alternative community.The Church has become more sanitized, more tame. We have often lost sight of the fact that we have been invited to live in a bigger story and to join in a grand adventure. The Church and our faith should call us to sacrifice like Jesus did and to make a commitment like the disciples did. Instead we sit in our comfortable pews on Sunday morning. We go to Bible studies on Wednesday night. And our faith looks little like the faith of those first followers of Jesus Christ.

    God is calling us into a life that matters and a faith that is wholly committed.

    And that is something both men AND women are aching for and searching for.

  • Pingback: Seeing Ourselves through the Eyes of a Child, Guest Contributor: James B. Carroll « groans from within

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